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Old 03-23-2006, 05:10 PM   #1
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heaven is hell

since we seem to be a bit bogged down in Iraq and Drudge-like crime stories or tales of human weirdness, i thought it might be fun to do what FYM sometimes does best -- delve into metaphysics.

i was reading a very interesting article in Salon about the biologist Edward O. Wilson, the father (i understand) of sociobiology. at the end of a wide-ranging interview, he concludes with the following thoughts:

[q]I guess I'm asking a slightly different question of you personally. Would you like there to be evidence of God? Forget about this as a great scientific discovery. Just personally, given your background, would that be thrilling? Would that be comforting?

Well, it would certainly give you a lot of material to study and think about the rest of your time. But you didn't ask me the right question.

What's the right question?

Would I be happy if I discovered that I could go to heaven forever? And the answer is no. Consider this argument. Think about what is forever. And think about the fact that the human mind, the entire human being, is built to last a certain period of time. Our programmed hormonal systems, the way we learn, the way we settle upon beliefs, and the way we love are all temporary. Because we go through a life's cycle. Now, if we were to be plucked out at the age of 12 or 56 or whenever, and taken up and told, now you will continue your existence as you are. We're not going to blot out your memories. We're not going to diminish your desires. You will exist in a state of bliss -- whatever that is -- forever. And those who didn't make it are going to be consigned to darkness or hell. Now think, a trillion times a trillion years. Enough time for universes like this one to be born, explode, form countless star systems and planets, then fade away to entropy. You will sit there watching this happen millions and millions of times and that will just be the beginning of the eternity that you've been consigned to bliss in this existence.

This heaven would be your hell.

Yes. If we were able to evolve into something else, then maybe not. But we are not something else.

http://www.salon.com/books/int/2006/...on/index2.html

[/q]



thoughts? reactions? i've actually thought about this -- since we can't think beyond human terms (by definition), i think he makes a great point that an eternal, unchanging, even blissful existence might, over the milennia, turn into a prison. that forever is precisely hell, at least in human conceptions of time.

that said, and keeping in mind our human limitations, what do you think the physical and spiritual experience of heaven might be like? is it light, color, sensation, revelation (of what?), love (for whom?) ... i suppose we've got to try to think outside our biological capacities, since they will be gone, and though it's impossible to do that as even the language we use is limited since it can only reference that which before we have experienced (and that words are only given meaning through their associations with and definitions by other words, hence the closed-system aspect of things), i wonder if we still can't try.

if, as Wilson argues, the experience of what would be defined as heaven might be (and, perhaps, must necessarily be) hellish when experienced in human terms, what, then, must heaven necessarily be if it is not the hell described above?




(slow work day, for a change)
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Old 03-23-2006, 05:36 PM   #2
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Well, this is a quickie reply to one hell ( ) of a question but Wilson falls here into the same trap that a lot of folks fall into, which results in him almost inadvertantly setting up a straw-man. He's thinking of Heavan as a place rather than a state of being, Union. He's also making a HUGE assumtion that the "rules" of reality will be the same in whatever afterlife there might be as they are here. The result is very poor theology/philosophy/metaphysics, in my never really all that humble opinion.
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Old 03-23-2006, 05:44 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally posted by Sherry Darling
He's thinking of Heavan as a place rather than a state of being, Union. He's also making a HUGE assumtion that the "rules" of reality will be the same in whatever afterlife there might be as they are here. The result is very poor theology/philosophy/metaphysics, in my never really all that humble opinion.


i think he's using traditionalist definitions of Heaven and Hell, of stories that you see your loved ones and that you retain a sense of yourself -- and if the soul is immortal and indestructable, and if it is a part of us here on earth, and it carries over, isn't there some element of ourselves that will remain intact? that must necessarily remain intact? and if so, what part of us? what must the experience be? what can it not be?
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Old 03-23-2006, 06:04 PM   #4
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Traditional, worldly definitions of Heaven & Hell my be of places filled with pleasures or pains (again, as defined by the human experience).

I think one needs to examine their understanding of God to begin to grasp the notions of Heaven and Hell.
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Old 03-23-2006, 06:20 PM   #5
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I need to come back to this later but I had the same gut reaction as Sherry. I am surprised at how limited Wilson's views and assumptions are. I do assume there will be some element of me carried on , however, I have evolved quite a bit in 30 yrs. I think it would be great to have a trillion yrs to further develop without the drawbacks of a human body. I think I always just assumed that we would evolve beyond our understanding and imagination.

He seems to also be saying that bliss can get old after x period of time. I think that bliss (whatever that state would be) precludes an awareness that you are bored of seeing universes being born. Wouldn't that be the nature of bliss?
Hopefully someone understands what I am trying to say, as Irvine pointed out we are going to be limited in this discussion by the language we know.
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Old 03-23-2006, 06:44 PM   #6
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Sounds like his interpretation is assuming that when people die, the immediately go to heaven/hell and this will continue to happen ad infinitum. Many Christian denominations believe that only when Christ returns to earth, everyone will be judged at that specific time and that will be the end of it all. Therefore, you wouldn't be sitting there watching new worlds form and more people going this way or that, b/c Christ's return would be the end of all of that, there will be no more bioligical and astronomical processes that continue on as we understand them today. I'm not saying this is what I believe, but there are gazillions of people that do believe this way, so that kind puts a hole in his theory.

I won't even get into how messed up his theology is...
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Old 03-23-2006, 07:00 PM   #7
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Maybe that's the reason some of the angels fell. The tedium. Wanted to shake things up a little.

Honestly, though, heavenly details are pretty sparse.
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Old 03-23-2006, 07:10 PM   #8
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I'm a Catholic, i go to mass etc...i dont really fall into traditionalist or liberal Catholicism (if there is such a thing, but that is another debate i guess) but i do believe in Heaven...i've debated this with myself since i was 10...i really don't have a clue about what the hell Heaven is

The eternal state of bliss idea has always sounded like turning us into zombies...I've always believed God created us not to be yes men, to make our own choices and decisions, so turning us into yes men when we die doesn't fit with what i believe, there will hopefully be an element of us that is very human when we get to Heaven......but making us happy forever isn't a comforting idea to me, even the idea that snowbunny suggests that the state of bliss will preclude any boredom does not appeal to me...it would like being drugged out of your head i suppose...of course I wouldn't exactly care when i am there with said state of bliss, but right now as a human being i am actually kinda scared of that kind of Heaven...I am also i suppose scared of not existing in any form after I die as well (but that isn't what drives my faith)...so in essence i'm kinda frightened of both non-existence and existence after i die, one because it is so definite and the second because I don't know
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Old 03-23-2006, 07:27 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally posted by LJT
...so in essence i'm kinda frightened of both non-existence and existence after i die, one because it is so definite and the second because I don't know


i totally understand this, and i am fully sympathetic to this as it's thoughts like these that keep me up at night and also instill a fairly palpable Fear of Death, and not just because i am terrified of the awesome force it must take to kill a human being (natural causes or otherwise). it also seems to me that what Wilson is actually getting at is an atheist position, or at least agnostic -- that our conceptions of Heaven and Hell are greatly informed by our understanding of various religious texts, all of which were penned by humans, and all of which must necessarily put that-which-cannot-be-known into human terms, and that, if we are to take these writings literally, or even as "truth," subjective truth even, that there's something fundamentally illogical about it, and this lends credit to the biological necessity of religious faith to a self-aware life form, one that is acutely aware of its lifespan and the precariousness of life itself.
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Old 03-23-2006, 07:36 PM   #10
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Old 03-23-2006, 07:55 PM   #11
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You know I am much more comfortable with the idea of reincarnation than any current idea of Heaven ..haha this strangely reminds me of LOTR...I think some of Tolkiens shorter story collections on Middle Earth deal with the Elves having to live for so long that they get bored of life, which i guess can be applied to Wilson's own ideas on Heaven....also in his understanding of Heaven, us humans would probably just go mad from living eternally..

The most religious texts give us on any place after we die is just being closer to our creator, whatever that is exactly...I've always wondered that it must be easier to be a fundamentalist...as they have their definite destination, where we don't know, which causes our fear...

The lines 'til kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven' have caused me to think that Heaven is just our name for where God or the creator is, but the human Heaven is something we have to work for to create on earth 'as it is in Heaven', we might not in fact go anywhere when we die, but our task given by God is to ensure that we create a world where future humans may have a peaceful Heaven like existence....but that is just one of the many interpretations of Heaven going around in my head, with my personal favourite being a good book and some great music in the background
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Old 03-23-2006, 10:28 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally posted by LJT
so in essence i'm kinda frightened of both non-existence and existence after i die, one because it is so definite and the second because I don't know
I guess I have never really been able to understand the fear of non-existence following death. None of us existed before we were born either, but it's not like we spend much time worrying about or contemplating that. Growing old alone, becoming ill and in pain, watching capacities you once took pride in slip away, regretting all the things you failed to do in life and which it's too late to start on now...all these I can understand. But fearing the loss of all awareness of the physical world as we've known it, that I can't really understand. If there's truly no Me-ness left, then a harrowing existential crisis would be impossible, I'd think.

And if there is some kind of individual existence following death, well basically existence is existence and still bound by the laws of time and space, which makes the whole notion of being "bored for eternity" problematic. Nothing that "exists," by any human understanding of that term, could meaningfully be called eternal. Maybe we'd be more bored, maybe not, but we'd still be trapped in time and space, with all the continued vulnerabilities and hunger for experience that we're already familiar with implied. A changed order maybe, and thus one that calls for a changed response (which to me sounds more exciting than frightening), but not truly a whole new order.
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Old 03-24-2006, 08:57 AM   #13
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I tend to agree with you, Yolland. I'm not sure there is anything to fear in post-death non-existence.

It's interesting to hear people's near death experiences though...you know, seeing the light and loved ones, a sense of peace etc. We never hear anyone recount that they are approaching the fire lol. But I'll bet that happens and those that come back from that experience likely make significant changes in their lives.

If there is a state of consciousness after death, maybe it exists as you imagine it and as you think you deserve to experience it...which in life, that "true" thinking is at a subconscious level. Does that make sense? In death, the unknown of your own psyche becomes known and you ultimately are your own judge without the benefit of denial.

Now if we could only tap into that ability in life, we might just find heaven on earth.
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Old 03-24-2006, 09:58 AM   #14
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well, to push this a bit further ... if we have existence, we must then have non-existence, so would we know non-existence if it were to occur? so what is it then, black dreamless sleep? does a consciousness ever creep into non-existence?

[q]A changed order maybe, and thus one that calls for a changed response (which to me sounds more exciting than frightening), but not truly a whole new order.[/q]

i think this is admirable, but it also strikes me as overly optimistic -- what if this is as good as it gets? what if the afterlife, whatever it might be, is worse? yes, i know these are, in many ways, ultimately futile thoughts, but the notion of "eternal" -- which is most often coupled with "soul" -- is rather frightening to me, as frightening as non-existence (and by frightening, i suppose i mean overwhelming) is in some ways, that it must almost necessarily be all or nothing.

dunno. thems just meanderings i had on the treadmill this cloudy, damp Friday morning in March.
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Old 03-24-2006, 10:38 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally posted by Irvine511
what if this is as good as it gets? what if the afterlife, whatever it might be, is worse? yes, i know these are, in many ways, ultimately futile thoughts, but the notion of "eternal" -- which is most often coupled with "soul" -- is rather frightening to me, as frightening as non-existence (and by frightening, i suppose i mean overwhelming) is in some ways, that it must almost necessarily be all or nothing.
I think everywhere you turn when you ask yourself these questions leads to the same place...live your best life right now in a way that brings you the most peace of mind in every aspect of your life.

Personally I find The Serenity Prayer comes as close to a universal truth as we can currently get.

"God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change
courage to change the things I can
and wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time
Enjoying one moment at a time
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace
Taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it
Trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His Will
That I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him Forever in the next.
Amen."
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